Category Archives: Lake Okeechobee

What if the EAA had Become “The Promised Land, “Okeechobee Fruit Lands Company… SLR/IRL

“Eager salesman from the Florida Fruit Lands Company crossed the country, promoting the Everglades as a “Garden of Eden”, a “Tropical Paradise,” “The Promised Land”. These “swamp boomers” enticed potential buyers with sales literature quoting government officials who extolled the possibilities of the Everglades…” 

Okeechobee Fruit Lands Co., early 1900’s map, ~Museum of the Glades.

For years, Ed and I have flown over the Bolles Canal, just south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area, and for years, I wondered who the east/west canal in the EAA was named for…

Just goes to show, even if you become famous, or even “infamous,” over time, chances are, even people who should know your name may not have a clue…

Like Hamilton Disston, Richard “Dicky” J. Bolles was a millionaire of the late 1800s and early 1900s set up to help Florida get out of debt and grow an empire out of this “swamp.”

We get the picture here:

“Bolles founded the first of his Florida enterprises, the Florida Fruit Lands Company, to dispose of 180,000 acres in Dade and Palm Beach Counties. The company divided the lands into 12,000 farms of varying size and designated a townsite, ‘Progreso’, with plans for streets, factories, schools, churches, and public buildings. For the price of $240, a buyer could purchase a contract from Florida Fruit Lands Company, entitling them to bid on a farm and town lot through a scheduled auction. This same scheme was employed by other sales ventures pitching swamp land in Florida, including Okeechobee Fruit Lands Company, which dealt in Bolles’ remaining 428,000 acres around the shores of Lake Okeechobee….

Eventually, Federal prosecutors initiated a case against Bolles and his cohorts, producing a 122-page indictment and more than 100 witnesses from across the country. Bolles was arrested on December 18, 1913 and tried the following March — he was found to be “an honest man”… ~Library of Congress, http://everglades.fiu.edu/reclaim/bios/bolles.htm

Florida Fruit Lands Co. Map ca. 1907, Museum of the Glades.

 

Okeechobee Fruit Lands plat map once again.

It’s fascinating to look at the Okeechobee Fruit lands map and imagine what would have happened, what could have happened, if Dicky J. Bolles had been successful in his underwater private swampland “scheme.” Look at his plan for this multicolored plat map!

Instead over time, the Great Depression set in, and the Federal Government, ACOE, came in just over a couple of decades later to help save us from Mother Nature and from ourselves, creating unified protections of the EAA under the 1848 Central and Southern Florida Plan, House Document 643.

And we all know the rest of the story…

What coulda, woulda, been?

HOUSE DOCUMENT 643 – 80TH CONGRESS (00570762xBA9D6)

Image up close, Museum of the Glades~although I see no date was obviously created prior to the 1914-1923, the dates of the  first digging of the St Lucie Canal which has been worst part of  the  St Lucie’s River’s complete and total destruction. This canal has been deepened and widened many times, reinforced by the CSFP of 1948. Interesting to note penciled in blue line to Jupiter, perhaps this was a possible canal never built.

Links to story of Richard “Dicky” J. Bolles, Reclaiming the Everglades, 1884-1934, U.S. Library of Congress: http://everglades.fiu.edu/reclaim/bios/bolles.htm

Special Edition Everglades Presentation by Fritz David 2004:
http://people.sc.fsu.edu/~pbeerli/BSC3052/restricted/slides/04-11-everglades.pdf

ACOE Central and Southern Florida Project:http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/CFS-CSFC/

Hamilton Disston, UF:http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/spec/ingraham/expedition/DisstonDrainage.htm

Death by Fertilizer, SLR/IRL

Definition of fertilizer: one that fertilizes specifically, a substance (such as manure or a chemical mixture) used to make soil more fertile so things grow. Usually containing phosphorus and nitrogen.

..

SFWMD 2005

“Death by Fertilizer” or “Our Sick Friends” was originally a booklet created by the River Kidz in 2012 to bring awareness to the ailing health of the bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon; I think the message remains a relevant teaching tool today.

Why?

South Florida’s water issues~

~The Lake Okeechobee Watershed: 88% agricultural in nature running into a now sick, eutrophic, algae-ridden, Cyanobacteria filled Lake;  a 700,000 acre Everglades Agricultural Area south of the Lake allowed to back bump when flooding occurs; all this water, in turn, discharged into the ailing St Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee Estuary by the ACOE while the SFWMD and FDEP, and their bosses, the  Executive and Legislative branches of government look on. This putrid, polluted water runs out into the ocean. We think that’s the end of the water destruction, but it’s not, as red tide and seaweed are fertilized, growing into monsters we have never seen before.

Phosphorus Loading by Land Use, Gary Goforth: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/phosphorus-loading-by-land-use-what-fdep-isnt-telling-us-gary-goforth/

Septic and sewer pollution is a type of fertilizer too. Some people around the world fertilize their crops with their own human waste; dog poop is also a “fertilizer,” and all this fertilizer leeches or runs off into our estuaries and ends up blending with the polluted Lake O water coming down the pike to the ocean. Every rain event runs right down the storm drains of our neighborhoods and shopping malls with all the “crap” it carries. We designed it that way, years ago, and have not changed this model. The fertilizer put put on our lawns, of course, runs off too.

Yes, it is death by fertilizer that we are experiencing this 2018. Eutrophication, Blooms of algae and cyanobacteria; red tide; too much seaweed suffocating the little sea turtles when they try to come up for air…

The fancy, confusing words of “nutrient pollution” must be replaced with “fertilizer,” something we can all understand. From the time we are children, we learn that “nutrients” are good, they make us strong. Fertilizer can be good, but we instinctively know it can also burn. We know not to eat it; it is not nutritious.  Nutrient Pollution is an oxymoron created by industries and government so we have a hard time understanding what is going on.

In conclusion, fertilizer (phosphorus and nitrogen) from corporate agriculture; poop from animals and people, (mostly nitrogen) and it is feeding, “fertilizing” Lake Okeechobee’s cyanobacteria blue-green blooms that in turn are poured into the St Lucie and Calooshatchee, which in turn this year are feeding, “fertilizing,” tremendous sargassum seaweed blooms, and red tide in the Gulf of Mexico and now in the Atlantic. These blooms are giant multi-celled intelligent, organisms, kind of like a bee-hive. They are hungry and determined and we are feeding them.  It is  a vicious cycle that only we can stop by forcing our government to take charge and coordinate municipal, state and federal programs of education and coordinated implementation. We know what to do.

Developing an effective strategy for reducing the impacts of nutrients, easier understood as “fertilizer over enrichment,” requires all of us to change how we live and the powerful agriculture industry to lead.

Otherwise, it is, and will remain, death by fertilizer.

National Research Council’s book, written in 2000, Understanding and Reducing the Effects of Nutrient Pollution is a step by step guide to this problem: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/9812/clean-coastal-waters-understanding-and-reducing-the-effects-of-nutrient

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SFWMD 2005

Links:

EPA, Nutrient Pollution: https://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/problem

2018 Palm Beach Post, Red Tide:

“Red tide was reported on the east coast in 2007 when it spread to the Treasure Coast south from Jacksonville where LaPointe said discharge from the St. John’s River may have aided its growth. LaPointe said this summer’s plethora of sargassum on southeast Florida beaches could feed red tide with a boost of nutrients leeching into the ocean when the seaweed dies.
Red tide is different from the freshwater blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, that has spread in Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie Estuary and the Caloosahatchee River this summer. But red tide and the cyanobacteria both thrive in nutrient-heavy conditions.
“You have discharges coming out the Jupiter Inlet,” LaPointe said. “Red tide likes the kind of slightly reduced salinity in areas where there’s a river plume.”
https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/crime–law/new-stretch-beach-jupiter-closed-police-after-odor-sickens-beachgoers/cVD3CBHqrYDrLCFFDV4T7L/

2018 Sun Sentinel, Lake O toxic algae blooms:

“Lake O and Estuaries’ Blooms: Not that this comes as much of a surprise. (Though state leaders feign shock with each new algae outbreak, as if they’ve just discovered gambling in Casablanca.) Environmental scientists have been warning Florida that the watershed lake was an environmental catastrophe since 1969.” Fred Grimm, reporting.
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-op-column-fred-grimm-lake-okeechobee-algae-returns-20180705-story.html

Close up toxic algae, JTL

2018 Palm Beach Post, Overabundance of Seaweed:

“Palm Beach Post:LaPointe is in the second year of a three-year NASA grant to study how nutrients are changing in the sargassum. What he’s found so far is nitrogen levels have increased, likely from heavy doses of fertilizer and sewage runoff.
“We have altered the nitrogen cycle on our planet and it started with the invention of fertilizer,” LaPointe said. “We think this is what is behind the increased abundance of sargassum.” https://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/weather/why-ugly-thick-brownish-seaweed-cursing-south-florida-beaches/yILMtAMMlxxOXqqYz5H1ZO/

Red tide 2018 #toxic18 site
Plethora of sargassum weed or seaweed at Jensen Beach, 2018 photo Ed Lippisch

Phosphorus Loading by Land Use, What FDEP is not Telling Us, 2018, Gary Goforth: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/phosphorus-loading-by-land-use-what-fdep-isnt-telling-us-gary-goforth/

Large Swath of Dead Mangroves, but Why? SLR/IRL

Google Earth image showing dead mangroves, 9-11-18

Recently a gigantic swath of dead mangroves, east of the Indian River Lagoon on Hutchinson Island in Jensen Beach was brought to my attention. About a year ago, I had noticed the dead forest of trees; however, with my full attention on toxic-algae, water-quality, or lack thereof, I had put this graveyard of walking trees out of my mind. Until I got a phone call a couple of days ago…

My contact, as many others, proposes fundamental changes, such as culverts or another small inlet between the barrier island and the IRL to allow more flushing and increase salinity, pointed out that the primary reason the mangrove forest died, post Hurricane Irma, was too much fresh water. He also noted that the toxic-algae, as bad as it is, is not the worst killer for our St Lucie River. The worst killer is an old enemy: too much fresh water from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. The fluorescent toxic algae has just “put a face” on the carrier, the real enemy, too much fresh water.

The St Lucie is an estuary (https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/estuary.html) and needs salt water to exist, also the microcystin toxin cannot survive in a brackish system. The constant discharges,  from Lake Okeechobee especially,  continually push fresh water through a once brackish system, poisoning it, and toxic algae is along for the ride…

I found this message a powerful tool in visualizing what has happened to our St Lucie River. The dead mangroves are indeed a metaphor for the entire St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon system: our lush seagrass beds have died and the water quality is terrible, leaving little or no wildlife.

We must remember, below our waters, too much fresh water has caused a dead forest too.

#Stop the Discharges

Algae and Cyanobacteria in Fresh Water, World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/bathing/srwe1-chap8.pdf

9-11-18 El/JTL

Photos taken on a sunny day, 9-15-18 JTL/EL

______________________________________________________

Below, I am including Martin County’s response to my inquiry about the dead mangrove forest as a matter of public interest and education.

Jacqui,

This loss of mangroves at the JBI site prompted a serious investigation by the Mosquito Control and Environmental Resources Divisions. Given the large-scale mortality event, testing was conducted to rule out site contamination. Water quality testing was also conducted to determine dissolved oxygen, pH, salinity, and hydrogen sulfide levels. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, St. Johns Water Management District, Smithsonian, a local mangrove arborist and Ecological Associates Inc. were all consulted regarding concerns over the mangroves. The majority opinion was that heavy late season rain and high water levels were the primary cause of the mangrove mortality with hurricane stress and suspended solids associated with storm surge as secondary causes. Additionally, lack of species and age structure diversity contributed to the loss, more diverse communities are associated with greater resiliency. Areas in close proximity to the JBI show evidence of mortality caused by ‘ponding’ in which high freshwater levels result in the loss of vegetation.

Recommendations going forward are to improve hydrological connectivity through the installation of additional culverts, clear out channel sedimentation, and install spillways. These actions will improve water quality by allowing for more exchange with the IRL and also increase the discharge capacity of the south cell to prevent high water levels associated with heavy rain and storm surge. In order to accomplish these actions, a capital improvement plan for the site was tentatively approved by the board on April 10th, 2018. Additional funding opportunities will be sought for site improvements and the board granted permission on July 24th, 2018 for staff to pursue State Wildlife Grant funding from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

While funding opportunities are being sought, in-house activities have been pursued. Specifically, staff gauges have been installed to monitor natural tide conditions to allow for careful water level monitoring. The Project Engineer from Field Operations has put together a conceptual plan. A failed culvert is in the process of being replaced. Blockages along the perimeter have been identified and several have been cleared. Transects are being put in for vegetative monitoring. New growth can be seen within the JBI site, however, this is primarily restricted to the areas in closest proximity to the IRL. Culverts are currently opened to allow for natural recruitment and mosquito control is being accomplished through alternative means to allow the area to reseed.

Let me know if you would like to meet to discuss this.

Terry B. Rauth, P.E., Public Works Director, Martin County Board of County Commissioners

The dead mangrove forest can even be seen from Google Earth just east and north of JB Bridge where map reads Jensen Beach Park, note brown area.
Canal systems dumping fresh water into SLR, C-44 from LO is most constant over long period of time, when Lake O is high, SFWMD
Comment from my mother w/historic photo” “My goodness. I am glad the county is correcting the problem that seems to me, to be that there was no longer tidal action in the mosquito ditches. When I interviewed pioneers like the Pitchfords, who I believe once owned this land, they said originally there were no mangroves. The government dug mosquito ditches connected to the lagoon by culverts causing the mangroves to flourish. Then laws protecting mangroves, made it impossible to develop the property. I guess there were ways to get around this because Sailfish Point and Indian River Plantation were criss-crossed with mosquito ditches and covered with mangroves. I have many photographs I would like to share but I do not know how to add them to this.” Sandy Thurlow (photo Aurthur Ruhnke 1956, Thurlow Collection)

What is Deep Well Injection? What are Estuary Protection Wells? SLR/IRL

Image courtesy of FDEP – Locations, Deep Injection Wells, South Florida 2018

“Deep Well Injection” is a term uncommon at most dinner tables. However, it is becoming more so because the South Florida Water Management District has interest in creating deep well injection “Estuary Protection Wells” around Lake Okeechobee. These wells would “lessen discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries,” hence the name. Of course there is a spin factor here as Estuary Protection Wells sounds better than Deep Well Injection that has a negative connotation, in spite of its popularity in the state of Florida.

So what is deep well injection?

In the 1930s the petroleum industry pioneered the technology, injection of liquids (produced brine from their processing) into underground formations. Over time, this procedure was adapted to many other forms of waste byproduct. According to the U.S. Environmental  Protection Agency’s website, as the popularity of injection wells expanded,  the Federal Government set protections. In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act,  requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop regulatory requirements to control underground injection. These regulations are called underground injection control rules (UIC)  and continue to regulate safety of drinking water throughout the United States today. (EPA: https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1988/0477/report.pdf)

EPA website Class I DWI

For the Environmental Protection Agency deep injection wells fall into six categories:

Class I industrial and municipal waste disposal wells 
Class II oil and gas related injection wells
Class III solution mining wells
Class IV shallow hazardous and radioactive waste injection wells
Class V wells that inject non-hazardous fluids into or above underground sources of drinking water
Class VI geologic sequestration wells
(https://www.epa.gov/uic/class-i-industrial-and-municipal-waste-disposal-wells)

Interestingly enough, again, according to EPA’s website “approximately 30 percent of Class I wells in the U.S. are municipal waste disposal wells and these wells are located exclusively in Florida. It must have something to do with Florida’s geology, or the laziness of our state to want to clean up the water. (Sorry, I could not resist.)

You can see from the 2013 map below exactly where these wells are located; a number of them are located in Martin and St Lucie Counties. Partially treated grey-water or waste water is sent thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface into a “boulder zone” where there is space to hold it and it is “separated” by geological barriers from aquifers and surface waters.  Generally it is believed this boulder zone is connected or has an outfall many miles out in the ocean and would leak ever so slowly, if it did at all, and  in a time frame so slow it would be incomprehensible to humans…. Hmmm? (https://wasteadvantagemag.com/wastewater-deep-injection-wells-for-wastewater-disposal-industries-tap-a-unique-resource/)

So if the SFWMD is able to implement Deep Well Injection, it would not be unknown technology, it would be nothing new, nothing Florida isn’t already doing ~taking the easy way out…not cleaning the water on land…

Is it laziness, just more of the same, or something to consider as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is painstakingly implemented as mentioned in the **UF Water Institute Report of 2015?

Doing the right thing is not easy, however, in the meanwhile the estuaries could totally die. Purchasing the land, insuring funding from Congress every two years, dealing with stakeholders, enduring the slow-pace of the Army Corp of Engineer’s approval process, designing Storm Water Treatment areas that don’t make anybody mad, planting the new vegetation to clean the polluted water running from industrial farms and fewer municipalities into Lake Okeechobee without wrecking the environment for another animal like a poor gopher turtle, takes a lot more time and effort…

In fact, it might be decades before things are in place…

And this is why the South Florida Water Management is considering the wells. I will not say that I agree, but as I sit here surrounded by a dead, toxic-algae filled St Lucie Estuary, I  will admit, I empathize.

 

Source of 2013 map: http://www.gwpc.org/sites/default/files/event-sessions/Haberfeld_Joe.pdf

LINKS:

*Thank you to Robert Verrastro, Lead Hydrogeologist SFWMD for meeting with me: 2017 Concept for Deep Well Injection in the Northern Everglades, SFWMD,  Verrastro & Neidrauer: https://apps.sfwmd.gov/webapps/publicMeetings/viewFile/10856

NPS/CERP: https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/cerp.htm

FDEP: https://floridadep.gov/water/aquifer-protection/content/uic-wells-classification

2018 SFWMD Estuary Protection Wells: https://www.sfwmd.gov/news/nr_2018_0824_managing_high_water

2007 SFWMD: https://www.sfwmd.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Deep%20Well%20Injection%20Feasibility%202007%20Final%20Report_0.pdf

Celeste De Palma, Director of Everglades Policy at Audubon Florida, DWI is Not an a Remedy for Water Management: https://www.news-press.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/07/07/deep-injection-wells-not-remedy-water-management/763586002/

Diverted Water From Lake O, Killing the Northern Estuaries, Florida Oceanographic: https://www.floridaocean.org/blog/index/pid/263/id/23/title/stop-killing-the-estuaries-and-everglades#.W4_XWC2ZOi4

TCPalm Gil Smart: What the Push with DWI? https://www.tcpalm.com/story/opinion/columnists/gil-smart/2017/06/13/gil-smart-whats-behind-push-deep-injection-wells-near-lake-o/389838001/

Brandon Tucker, SFWMD,Op Ed: http://sunshinestatenews.com/story/if-were-serious-about-clean-estuaries-we-should-be-looking-emergency-protection-wells

Sierra Club: Don’t let Governor Scott’s South Florida Water Managers throw away water needed for drinking, Everglades Restoration and agriculture! http://www.sierraclubfloridanews.org/2017/08/dont-let-governor-scotts-south-florida.html

**Pg. 107: 2015 UF Water Institute Study: https://waterinstitute.ufl.edu/research/downloads/contract95139/UF%20Water%20Institute%20Final%20Report%20March%202015.pdf

SFWMD Public Meeting Info: https://apps.sfwmd.gov/webapps/publicMeetings/viewFile/10856

Mark Generales, News Press, Corps Wrong not to Support: Op Ed: https://www.news-press.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/06/13/army-corps-wrong-not-support-deep-injection-wells/391913001/

Sun Sentinel, Deep injection wells would waste water and money | Opinion: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-op-injection-wells-20170630-story.html

TC Palm: State upset over deep well injection rejection:
http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/health/2017/06/09/state-upset-over-deep-well-injection-rejection/384264001/

Everglades Trust and SFWMD DWI and communication:
https://www.sfwmd.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Everglades_Trust_Feb%20_16_2017_email%20.pdf

Martin County. DWI and waste water: https://www.martin.fl.us/sites/default/files/meta_page_files/cares_2018_usd.pdf.

EPA explanation of Deep Well injection with visual thousands of feet underground in boulder zone: https://www.epa.gov/uic/class-i-industrial-and-municipal-waste-disposal-wells

EPA categorized: https://www.epa.gov/uic/general-information-about-injection-wells#categorized

1989 Report, History of DWI/UIC: https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1988/0477/report.pdf

Haberfield Doc with map of DWI in Fl 2013:
http://www.gwpc.org/sites/default/files/event-sessions/Haberfeld_Joe.pdf

AN OVERVIEW OF INJECTION WELL HISTORY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
VanVoorhees: https://www.env.nm.gov/wqcc/Matters/14-15R/Item32/007B_RobertFVanVoorhees-OverviewPublication06-15-15.pdf

Waste Water Advantage Magazine: https://wasteadvantagemag.com/wastewater-deep-injection-wells-for-wastewater-disposal-industries-tap-a-unique-resource/

EPA Class 1 Wells: https://www.epa.gov/uic/class-i-industrial-and-municipal-waste-disposal-wells#non_haz

Janicki Omni-Processor hope for a cleaner future of waste and water: https://www.janickibioenergy.com/janicki-omni-processor/how-it-works/

The “Michigan J. Frog” Blue-Green Algae of the IRL

Harborage Marina here and below, an area the algae is “always present” looks clear on 8-19-18. JTL

When I was I kid, I loved to watch Looney Tunes. For some reason, my favorite cartoon was the story of “Michigan J. Frog,” the singing frog that would stop singing when its “owner” would take it out of the box to perform.

Although our St Lucie cyanobacteria issues are no performing frog, and are anything but funny, sometimes I do feel like I am in Looney Tunes. And most certainly, the singing frog analogy stands.

Recently, when some big-names came to visit our area to “see” the algae, I must admit, when it wasn’t, I wanted it to be there. This happened with famed conservation photographer Max Stone, and the next day with gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis’ ToxicTour with Congressman Brian Mast.

In both cases, just a day apart, we would be staring at an area famous for caked, stinking algae, photographed thousands of times, and the area would look “clean,” completely devoid of the thick green-blue mats. In a desperate attempt for credibility, I’d be showing Max Stone or Congressman DeSantis pictures on my phone displaying how the algae looked “just last week”….”just yesterday!” “See those grey lines on the seawall, they were blue!”

They believed me of course, they’d seen the national news, but it would have been so much more convincing if I had been able to show them the fierce algae face to face! AGGG!

But that’s not my decision. The algae comes and goes. And most important, thick or thin, it is always there. The particulate algae is just as bad as the mats, just not as emotionally charged.

And of course, the moment these big names left, just the next day in fact, the algae started coming back ~like these photos shared this morning by Mary Radabaugh from famed Central Marine in Rio.

Maddening! Isn’t it?

8-23-18 Mary Radabaugh shares photos here and below of cyanobacteria blue green algae” back in Marina. It was not visible like this when I visited just days before.

I guess the lesson is, and what we must know, and be able to explain, is that the algae, like the character Michigan J. Frog, during times when Lake Okeechobee is being discharged, the algae whether performing or not, is always there in the box/in the river.  Only the cyanobacteria/blue green algae will decide if and when it will sing…

Not so visible particulate cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) in the SLR, August 2018. JTL

And it probably won’t when you want it to, and it probably will when you wish it would not…it is a living creature with a mind of its own in tune with temperature and nutrients (food) not thinking of people at all.

In closing, take Bathtub Beach yesterday for a final example, now closed due to cyanobacteria. The same thing! I went to visit after hearing the beach had been closed, but by the time I got there the tide and winds had pushed most of the cyanobacteria out to sea. But it was still there, just quiet. Looking closely, the particulate clumps were gathered at the shoreline waiting to perform. Be certain, the frog, one day, of its own accord, will sing.

MichiganJ.  Frog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bh376GzsSKI

John Moran’s “Florida’s Summer of Slime: Stuart and Lake Okeechobee”

It’s an honor to present:

“Florida’s Summer of Slime: Stuart and Lake Okeechobee,” photo essay by John Moran, August 2018

I reported last month on the plight of the Caloosahatchee River and its befouled waters flowing from Lake Okeechobee; delivering slime to waterfront neighborhoods in Fort Myers and Cape Coral along the way to the Gulf Islands of Southwest Florida.

Next up on our Summer of Slime photo tour is a visit to Stuart and Lake O…Stuart and environs is a glistening jewel born of water. It may well top the list of Florida cities in shoreline per capita. There’s simply water everywhere. Two forks of the St. Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon, canals and peninsulas and islands, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Stuart is pictured above; below is neighboring Hutchinson Island.

But it wasn’t Stuart’s reputation for abundant clean water that drew me south from Gainesville with my cameras. In effect, I’ve become a traveling crime scene photographer—and slime is the crime. A devastating outbreak of toxic algae has once again hit the St. Lucie River and the Treasure Coast, fueled by the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River basin to the north. Damaging headlines trumpet the story to the nation and the world and Governor Scott has declared a state of emergency. It’s déjà vu all over again.

My hosts in Stuart were water blogger Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and her husband, Ed Lippisch.

Ed took me up for a photo flight in his Piper Cub so I could get the big picture.

Seen from a small plane at 500 feet, Florida is a beautiful place.

Here’s Lake Okeechobee and the western terminus of the St. Lucie C-44 Canal. Administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam has the capacity to discharge 14,800 cubic feet of water per second downstream to Stuart and the St. Lucie River Estuary, 26 miles away.

Sugar industry representatives say the water coming out of Lake Okeechobee is not the problem and that the algae outbreak in Stuart is primarily caused by Stuart’s own septic tanks and urban stormwater. This claim is contradicted by the extensive algae mats seen along the C-44 Canal between the Port Mayaca and St. Lucie Locks, well upstream from Stuart.

Lake Okeechobee historically drained south to Florida Bay, not east and west to the Atlantic and Gulf. The C-44 canal was built in 1916 to divert floodwaters to the coast.

A view of the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, several miles southwest of Stuart. On the day of my photo flight in late July, the dam gates were closed, visibly holding back algae from flowing downstream. Look closely and you can see what some people call The Seven Gates of Hell.

The St. Lucie Lock and Dam are an integral part of South Florida’s complex web of water management structures, born of an age when the Everglades was reviled as a watery wasteland and America was driven to drain it.

Below the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, in Palm City and Stuart, you can still find waterfront homes untouched by the algae bloom. But that’s no consolation for the thousands of Martin County residents whose lives are in upheaval once again this summer. The familiar pattern of algae outbreaks is fueled by fertilizer, manure and urban sources of nutrient pollution, including septic tanks.

All of this is compounded by denial and neglect by elected officials and agencies to whom we entrust the important work of environmental protection and public health.

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch took me on a driving tour of the C-44 Canal from Stuart to enormous Lake O, which is more like a stormwater treatment pond than a biologically healthy lake. “There are toxic algae blooms across the globe, but only one place where the government dumps it on you: Florida,” she says.

It’s not just the algae from Lake Okeechobee causing headaches along Florida’s east coast; the sheer volume of freshwater discharges is an environmental pollutant that overwhelms the estuary.

The Lake O gunk visible in the satellite view, above, is shown in the detail photo below.

Fishermen are still drawn to Port Mayaca. On the day we visited, I counted nine.

Dinner in hand (speckled perch), Felix Gui, Jr. has been fishing Lake O for 30 years. “The algae doesn’t affect the fish,” he says. “They eat the same, algae or no algae, and I haven’t gotten sick.” Experts have warned against eating fish exposed to the algae.

A Martin County Health Department sign at Port Mayaca warns against contact with the water but I saw no messaging about whether fish caught in these waters is safe to eat.

Enroute home to Stuart, Jacqui and I stopped at deserted Timer Powers Park on the St. Lucie Canal in Indiantown.

At the St. Lucie Lock, a surreal scene of impaired water, above, and a vortex of slime, below, waiting to be flushed downstream.

A pair of jet-skiers signaled for the lock to be opened, and another pulse of algae-laden water is released towards Stuart and the coast.

Wouldn’t want to anyway, thanks.

Further downstream, the algae spreads…

Nearing the coast, Rio Nature Park and the neighboring Central Marine in Stuart are slimed again. This was the epicenter of the infamous Treasure Coast algae outbreak of 2016.

Reporter Tyler Treadway of TCPalm gathered a sample of the polluted water from a canal behind the offices of Florida Sportsman magazine in Stuart.

Staff complaints of headaches, nausea and dizziness prompted Florida Sportsman publisher Blair Wickstrom to temporarily close the office in late July. “It smells like death,” he said.

The Shepard Park boat ramp parking lot in Stuart was nearly empty on the day we visited.

A man on a mission, Mike Knepper, above and below, posts videos on his Youtube channel documenting the degradation of natural Florida.

“It’s totally unacceptable to me what we’re doing to this planet because we’re very rapidly destroying it,” Knepper says. “My children and grandchildren will be paying the price for all the bad decisions we’re making today. I want to be able to look them in the face and say, ‘I tried to make a difference.’”

Dead-end canals along the St. Lucie River with their limited water exchange have been hardest hit by the toxic blue-green algae, which scientists refer to as cyanobacteria.

A growing body of medical research links exposure to cyanobacteria with neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s. Google it.

Meanwhile, we’re getting conflicting messages from officialdom. Martin County has erected signs warning against contact with the water but the Florida Dept. of Health website, under the heading How to Keep Your Family Safe While Enjoying Florida’s Water Ways, has this to say: “Cyanobacteria/ blue-green algae…are naturally occurring in Florida’s environment and are also found all over the world. They are part of a healthy ecosystem and help support a wide variety of aquatic life.” (http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/cyanobacteria.html) In other words, Lighten up, Florida. This is just nature being natural.

An open question remains: What will become of the value of the Florida brand when the world fully sees what we have done to our waters?

Even in disaster, strange beauty emerges.

Greg Fedele has lived in his water-front home since 1991. He grieves for his loss. “I have three kids who can’t enjoy the waterways of Martin County like I did growing up.”

The sign at Ocean Blue Yacht Sales in Stuart echoes a wide swath of community sentiment. Asked to describe in a word how the algae outbreak has impacted his business, president Bryan Boyd replied, “Horrible. The last three years, our bay boat sales have been a third of what they used to be.”

A roadside sign seen in Stuart in late July. If you’re wondering what you can do about the ongoing crisis of Florida waters, we are called to consider our own water footprint, learn about the issues and get involved. And never forget that elections have consequences. Vote for Clean Water. (https://www.bullsugar.org/#)

What we have here in Florida is not just a crisis of water, we have a crisis of democracy and civic engagement.

From the beleaguered springs of North Florida to the sickened rivers and coasts of South Florida, we must understand that no savior is waiting on the horizon who will fix this thing for us.

It took a group effort to create this mess and we need all hands on deck if are to reclaim our waters. Florida needs environmental patriots willing to face down politicians funded by wealthy interests who think nothing of sacrificing our public waters on the altar of their private profits.

We don’t have the luxury of time to get this right. We are losing our waters now. This is our moment. It’s time to set aside our differences and focus on what is at stake, for this is nothing less than a battle for the soul of Florida.

The pictures don’t lie. We the people of Florida bear witness today to nothing less than a crime against nature, and a crime against the children who shall inherit our natural legacy.

A long time ago, Florida political leaders—Republicans and Democrats in common cause—understood there can be no healthy economy without a healthy environment. They wisely enacted laws and regulatory safeguards accordingly.

But that was then and this is now. It’s time to end the popular fiction in Florida that we can plunder and pollute our way to prosperity.

Gov. Reubin Askew said it best when he declared in 1971, “Ecological destruction is nothing less than economic suicide.”

In this, our Summer of Slime, can I get an amen?

by John Moran
August 2018

web: http://johnmoranphoto.com
email: JohnMoranPhoto@gmail.com
cell: 352.514.7670

Feel free to forward or post this photo essay as you wish; attribution is appreciated. Please share this with elected officials and ask them: what’s their plan to clean up our waters?

NCCOS/NOAA Satellite Imagery, Making the Connection, Todd Thurlow

http://www.thurlowpa.com/LakeOImagery/NCCOS%20HAB%20Images/index.html

If you’re like me, you might wonder about the various satellite images in the news and on social media showing the cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, in Lake Okeechobee. What’s the connection between the colorized and the not? How do the scientists determine the colorized image? Where do they come from?

In this post, I share a link to my brother, Todd Thurlow’s latest creation, “NCCOS HAB Images.” This exciting site juxtaposes an experimental product of the National Centers for Coastal Science, NCCOS, being used to track Harmful Algae Blooms, HABs, in Lake Okeechobee, to NOAA True Color, or enhanced traditional satellite images.
The NCCOS images are referenced by The South Florida Water Management District, however, experimental. Experimental or not they are cool, tell us a lot, and they are interesting!

Before relying on a CICyano (Chlorophyll Cyanobacteria Index) image, scientists must first look at the “true color” version to determine if clouds or sunlight reflections have corrupted the data. Todd has made it easy for us to compare the NCCOS “Chlorophyll Cyanobacteria Index” pictures to the corresponding “True Color” picture. He processed hundreds of images, putting them side by side. Generally, if there are clouds on the right image, then the left image may not be so reliable. But if there are no clouds on the right, then the left image is a good indicator of algae.

This site is an awesome visual tool we can now reference as we continue to learn about HABs in Lake Okeechobee. Technology is a powerful path for connecting to a “better water future.”

SEE LINK BELOW FOR SITE: http://www.thurlowpa.com/LakeOImagery/NCCOS%20HAB%20Images/index.html

 

http://www.thurlowpa.com/LakeOImagery/NCCOS%20HAB%20Images/index.html

LINKS:

National Centers for Coastal Science: http://coastalscience.noaa.gov

NOAA, Harmful Algae Blooms: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/hazards/hab/